Chapter Three: He's Back!
Lucius Malfoy was a man of many means, both physical and substantial, and he used both to his advantage in many of his dealings with the Wizarding World. He was a master at finding who had the weakest resistance against the Galleon's golden tongue, much to his Lord's glee during the War, and had used his hard earned gift to make sure he eluded Azkaban's icy grasp.
It was also why he was one of the first to hear when the whispers of Harry Potter, so-called 'Boy-Who-Lived', was alive and well turned from rumors to actual news.
"Apparently, an old friend o' the family took the boy in and has bin takin' care of him for nigh on ten years," Lucius' latest informant wiped a grimy hand across his mouth, scattering crumbs from the meal Lucius purchased across the table before he gulped down a mouthful of the ale in his mug, spilling it into his beard as he continued, "I jus' heard from some Muggles that live nearby that they saw Dumbledore hisself-'course they dinnea know it was Dumbledore that was a visitin'-enter the boy's home and got to wonderin' why theys suddenly got visitors in all the time theys been livin' there..."
Lucius sniffed, both at the man's disgusting manner and where the source of his 'valuable information' was coming from. "You better have a better source than some lowly Muggles, or the cost of this conversation won't just be a meal."
Swallowing down the lump that suddenly sprang up in his throat, the informant quickly added, "A-a few others-Magical, others-saw Dumbledore later and he was in a right fit o' mind, fretting on whether the Potter boy was 'safe' or no..."
With a final sneer, Lucius rose from the table, throwing a few Galleons on its worn surface as he warned darkly, "You better pray that your information proves true, spy, because I will find you if there is a single word of falsehood... no matter where you hide."
With a sniff of disdain for good measure, Lucian exited the non-descriptive inn, made his way out of Knockturn Alley's dark streets and back onto Diagon, cloak and hood wrapped around his frame so that any nosy half-bloods would not recognize him and start boring questionings for his whereabouts...
As soon as Lucius stepped onto Diagon Alley, he saw something that forced him to reconsider the health expectantly of his informant, as disgusting as the man was...
A haggard looking Remus Lupin was holding the hand of a smallish, mousy haired boy with the helping hand of an equally mousy haired woman that seemed unable to walk a straight line without tripping over her feet, the cobbles under them, or an innocent looking sign along the side of the street; something both Lupin and the boy found extremely humorous, given the uproarious laughter they made was anything to go by. It would have been the perfect family scene if not of two things:
The woman's over the top klutziness easily identified her as Nymphadora Tonks, a shameful recruit to the Auror Office and a statement to how desperate the Ministry of Magic was in the last days of the War, and Lucius had yet to hear of the destitute Lupin having any children, much less marrying anyone...
Therefore, there was only one logical reason Lupin would think to disguise the boy with them and the disgrace to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement: This was obviously the 'family' that Harry had been saddled with when Lily and James Potter died, the one that had Dumbledore wondering if the child was safe or not.
Lucius eyes ran over the group critically, looking for anything that could probably tip the boy's interest in his favor; while their clothes were obviously low scale, they were well made and seemed to fit the boy nicely, unlike the rags he had seen on a family of redheads earlier. The boy was also well fed and seemed to be completely in awe of everything he saw, making the adults with him smile at every gasp of surprise he made.
Wanting to make sure of the facts before he planned anything, Lucius cast a quick Disillusionment Charm upon himself and followed the group as closely as he dared, taking careful pains to mask any sound his feet made, for the Charm may have disguised him but it did not make it so that he could not be heard...
"Come'n, Lupy, you're being paranoid." The woman scoffed, narrowly avoiding tripping over a group of children that happened to be passing by at that moment. "Who wouldn't be thrilled that Harry Potter was alive and walking among them?"
Lucius was quick to swallow his shout of surprise as his suspicions were confirmed and Lupin quickly hushed the woman beside him and hastily looked around to see if anyone had heard her, the boy-now Lucius was sure he was Harry Potter, his knowledge allowing him to see through the glamour-looking between the two with a worried expression.
As Lupin was making sure that no one was drawn by the shout, Lucius took another look at the boy now that the Glamour Charm was no longer impairing his vision; the boy was still scrawny, having black hair instead of a mousy brown, and there, barely hidden by the fringe of his bangs, was Harry Potter's legendary lightning bolt scar.
Lucius had barely enough time to take this all in before Lupin all but dragged the woman into a shop off the side of the street, Harry being pushed along in front of them and Lucius following silently behind.
"Because, Tonks, I don't want the boy gawked at like damn exhibit in a zoo! He'll have enough of that in school, I want his last few days as a Muggle to be as normal as possible..."
"Alright, Lupy," The Auror replied, tripping over a pile of books that had the clerk of the store yelling at her as she moved back onto Diagon Alley's main street, almost running over Lucius on her way out. "Alright, we'll do it your way..."
Nodding, Lupin paused a moment to give the boy standing next to him a small smile which was hesitantly returned after a few minutes thought. "Now, let's go over this one last time, just so we know we got it down; what is your name?"
"Harold Lupin, and I'm a nephew from a unheard of little sister on your father's side," was the almost immediate reply, making Lucius believe that this was a heavily rehearsed conversation and that the answers were also heavily rehearsed as well.
"Correct. Now, why are we here?"
"School supplies and robes for my first year at Hogwarts," A small hand brushed through its owner's bangs, making Lucius strongly believe 'Harold Lupin' was nervous about their little outing. Lupin noticed as well, for he gave the boy a reassuring pat on the head before he continued.
"When people mention V-Voldemort?" Lupin quickly asked, shocking Lucius with his ability to say the Dark Lord's name. Many of those in the Dark Lords inner circle still had a fear of that name.
"I twitch and act like I'm scared," 'Harold' responded promptly, giving a good enough twitch that even Lucius would have believed it if he did not already know the entire thing was scripted.
"And if anyone asks you...?"
"I've never heard of Harry Potter..." The little boy's face twisted for a few seconds before he suddenly burst out, "Daddy Remus, why do I have to lie about who I am? Why can't I tell people the truth?"
Lupin rubbed a weary hand through his hair, before giving 'Harold' a strained smile. "It's like I told Auntie Tonks, people are going to be gawking enough at you in school, I just want you to have a few last normal days before all of that..."
"Okay..." The boy still sounded uncertain, Lucius was curious if anyone had ever told him exactly why he was so famous: That he was the only one that survived both the Killing Curse and an encounter with the Dark Lord, not mention they happened at the exact same time!! "I understand... Can I get a broom here, anyway?"
Lupin laughed aloud at that, surprising Lucius enough to send him stumbling backwards at the sound. "Sorry, cub, but First Years aren't allowed brooms, says so right on your form. You're going to have to wait until Second Year before trying out for the Quidditch team."
"Awww, please...?" The child's tone turned pleading, looking up at his 'father' with the wide-eyed expression that it seemed all children that age used; even Draco had used it on Lucius a time or too, to a surprising percent of efficiency, "I'll hide it from everybody, or I'll say I'm holding it for a friend! Please, please, please..."
Lucius followed the chuckling pair as they walked down the street and back to the woman who was now looking at them if they had lost their minds, eyes open for any sign that would somehow drop this very golden bauble into much more worthy hands...
Severus Snape sat at a bar, staring glumly at the bottom of his glass and wondering why it was empty, what happened to that lovely brown liquid that warmed him up from head to toe, made him feel as if his whole world wasn't broken into a thousand tiny pieces, all gathered around the empty cavity in his chest that used to house his heart...
The scrapping of a chair next to him brought Severus only halfway out of his haze; he squinted his eyes just enough to recognize the spectacles staring at him and the crooked nose that they rested upon, before he burrowed his head in his arms in a vain attempt to blocked out the rest of the world, starting with the man sitting next to him.
"G'way, Albus," Severus knew he sounded more like a petulant child than the grand Potions Master that he was, but at that point in his life, he just didn't care. He just wanted to drown in his sorrows until he passed out into blissful, dreamless sleep.
"I'm afraid I can't do that, Severus," Albus Dumbledore replied, brushing off the table in front of him like he was seated at the Head Table in the Great Hall of Hogwarts, "You and I have things we need to discuss..."
"No!" Severus barked, scaring several of the bar's patrons as he wobbled on his stool, "No, Albus, I don't want to hear any more about your 'plans' or 'schemes' or 'reasons to make someone a better man', I've already listened to that tripe once before and now look where it got me-"
"Harry Potter is alive."
This time Severus really did fall of his stool, but he didn't bother to get back up; he simply stared at Albus, who was looking down at him with a perfectly serene expression, as if he didn't just deliver news that had just rocked Severus' world on its hinges.
"What did you say?" Severus asked, disbelief and hope warring for dominance in his tone, so much that Dumbledore gave a puzzled look, reminding himself just exactly who e was talking to, "Potter's brat is still breathing?"
Albus' eyes narrowed at Severus and Severus' heart rate gradually returned to normal as Albus' enunciated, "Yes, Severus, Harry Potter is alive and well, currently in the care of one of your school friends, one that you shared with James Potter."
Lily was gone, Peter had been blasted into little bits, and Sirius was in Azkaban, so that left... Severus' heart, which had finally slowed down, quickly sped up again as another revaluation hit him in the chest at full force: "Harry is with Remus?"
"I find it heartening that you are referring to both Harry and Remus by their given names, Severus," Albus responded with a smile, not knowing how badly his words were affecting the Potions Master.
"Well, don't get used to it," Severus grumbled, hefting himself back into his seat and was lifting his arm to order another drink when Albus stopped it with a had on his wrist.
"I don't think more alcohol is a good idea, Severus..."
Turning his gaze to Albus, Severus was just about to tell the man exactly where he could put his ideas when Dumbledore cut across him. "I want you to come back to Hogwarts as the Potions teacher."
"Yeah, and I want my life to be made out of bloody rainbows and sunshine," Severus snarled, jerking his arm out of Dumbledore's grasp and signaling a refill, which he drowned half of in one swallow, "Disappointment abounds..."
Shaking his head, Albus got up from his stool and looked down his nose at Severus, his eyes devoid of their familiar 'twinkle', as most people called it. "What happened to you, Severus? What happened to that bright man I once knew and respected?"
Severus raised his glass in a mockery of a salute, "You happened to me, old man, you and your damned 'greater good'... Forgive me if I can't live with the consequences of that..."
Shaking his head, Albus left once more, leaving Severus to the voices that had been plaguing him for almost twelve years...
"Well, it's more the fact that he exists, if you know what I mean..."
"I didn't want James to bother you any more, we got into a fight and I think I'm friendless again..."
"What I do is none of your damn business, Snivellus!!"
"Thank you, for talking to him, even though I know you hate his guts..."
"Look, Moony seems to think you're an okay guy, but I swear to Merlin, if you even think about hurting him..."
Damn them, damn them and their inability to leave him alone, to just let him crawl into a hole and die like he wanted. Like he deserved...
Their were pictures with the voices now, shattered memories that he would rather forget, rather never have happened...
James Potter is standing at his doorway, drenched to the skin and looking so lost that Severus can't find it in himself to summon up the hate, the need to sneer at him like normal, and that frightens him almost as much as the words that come from Potter's mouth.
"A group of Death Eaters... They just came out of nowhere... They jumped me and Kingsley half a block from Headquarters... Lily heard and tried to help... I was knocking Amycus Carrow out with a Stunner when I heard Lily scream... When I turned around... They... She..."
Severus could feel the dread coiling in his stomach, telling him to lash out at Potter, demand to know why he hadn't taken better care of his wife, but the need to find out where she was taken overrode all of that. "Did you recognize any of them?"
Potter nodded numbly and uttered one word, "Avery." before the shock finally hit him and he collapsed into a chair Severus had conjured as soon as he saw Potter start to crumple.
Severus nodded, before going to his bedroom and starting to pack provisions for the attempt to save Lily Potter before the thugs that took her made it back to Voldemort.
"What's going on? What's with the rucksack?" His rustlings had awoken his companion, who was now looking at him through sleepy toffee colored eyes, "Why are you leaving, Severus?"
The last bit was said so dejectedly, that Severus felt an uncommon burst of compassion that had him crossing the room to give his lover a searing kiss that had them both panting when he pulled away.
"Lily has been captured, Potter is in the kitchen, and I need to find whoever took her before the Dark Lord is informed." Severus explained in a rush, grabbing up his satchel and heading to the door, his spirits lifting a little at the flabbergasted expression on his companions face, "I need you to stay here and make sure that Potter doesn't do anything... rash."
He left the bedroom and headed out toward the front door, needing to get past the wards to Apparate. Potter being allowed through without any kind of Vow or spell had taken some very convincing persuasion on his lover's part, which had led to Severus eagerly agreeing to being persuaded much more often...
Speaking of Potter, he must have caught sight of the other occupant of the house, if the choked gasp and the completely flummoxed, "Moony?" were anything to go by.
The images were becoming too much, so Severus took another swallow of his drink, hoping to dull them back to just voices again, instead it just made everything more sharp.
He could taste the fear he felt when he finally caught up to Avery and his gang, hoping against hope that nothing had happened to Lily that he couldn't immediately heal... Thankfully, fear of their Dark Lord had kept their hands to themselves and it had only taken a few well placed words, a Stunner or two, and he and Lily where running through the woods, wards the only thing keeping them from simply Apparating away.
Lily was utterly hysterical, crying and clinging to Severus like a drowning man in a lifeboat, fraying Severus' already stretched nerves with the fear that they had hit her with something during the fight that was making her act so out of character...
It wasn't until later that Severus found out that it was her first fight against the Dark Lord and that she had been hit with the doubt that she would someday mess up so badly that everyone she loved would die. If he had known that, maybe what had transpired next would never have happened.
The large quantity of heavy alcohol Severus consumed was finally working and the images had finally faded back to just voices as darkness nipped at the edges of Severus' vision.
"Make me forget, Severus, please... Make me forget that we narrowly escaped with our lives, that I might be more of a liability than I thought... Make me forget that this war even exists..."
He had... He had helped her forget without a need for spell or charm, knowing that both of them had others that loved them and were waiting for them back home... and it wasn't until Lily announced that she was pregnant three weeks later that he felt guilty for it.
A/N: Poor Snape! That part just totally took over when I was writing it, it wasn't even planned!!
'Harold' meets Draco and learns a few things about pure-bloods...
Snape decides if he wants to go back to Hogwarts...